University of Rochester

Hunk O' Burnin' Love: Your Romantic Outlook Can Help Predict How Long Love Lasts, New Study Finds

September 19, 1996

Love may make the world go 'round, but how long love lasts has been devilishly hard to predict. Now, a new University of Rochester study finds that our attitudes about romance have a lot to do with how long a relationship lasts. Some people feel that partners are "destined" to be right or wrong for each other; others feel that good relationships are mostly a matter of being willing to work out problems.

So which view keeps the love fires burning? The answer depends on how close and happy we are at the start of a relationship, the study of 255 college students finds. If you believe in romantic "destiny" and you and your mate seem to have problems, even at the beginning, you'll probably break up sooner than a couple who thinks good relationships are built with time and effort. But if your early relationship is the picture of happiness, and you're one of those romantics who believes in ideal matches, then your romance will probably last longer than that of couple who focus on working out problems. Why? It may be that romantics canşt let go of the idea that a good match -- like those made in heaven -- is meant to last.

People in the study rated how happy they were with their partner, and showed whether they agreed more with views like "partners are either compatible or not," or views like "a successful relationship is mostly a matter of learning to resolve conflicts." The study's author, psychologist C. Raymond Knee, followed up several months later to see how long these relationships had lasted, and saw the connections he describes between attitudes and how long couples stay together. The study was published as Knee's doctoral dissertation in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology at Rochester. Knee is now at the University of Houston.